Due South Brewing Co. has cranked up its tanks, and brewmeister/owner Mike Halker is brewing away at his Caramel Cream Ale and Category 3 IPA offerings.
Halker, originally from North Carolina, said he wasn’t looking to brew beer when he first started looking for a way to make something his wife Jodi could drink.
“She’s allergic to the sulfites in wine, so I was going to make wine with no sulfites. I got to the store, and the guy said, ‘You don’t want to make wine – you want to make beer.’
“I said, I don’t like beer. He said, ‘You just haven’t had the right kind of beer yet.’ He sent me toward a couple of American craft beers that I liked, and so I decided to make some beer.”
He began like many others with a clone beer – a Dogfish 60 style is something he says he can replicate easily.
At that time, he owned a bar and grill in Charlotte, N.C., and started offering his homemade brew to friends to sample. They encouraged him to brew in earnest, so he knew he’d have an audience once he started.
Eventually, he and Jodi moved to South Florida. The craft brew movement was still in its infancy down here when they were here five years earlier. “Now things are taking a turn,” he said, pointing to the success of Tequesta Brewing Co. and several others that have come onto the scene in the last few years.
“Craft beer is available everywhere in the Northeast,” he said. In Florida, however, they weren’t visible or available through distribution to the growing crowd of beer aficionados who preferred small batch beers. “We’re such a small percentage of the beer market. But now that more breweries have popped up, people are taking advantage of that. They’re turning their friends on to that.”
Brew what you like to drink
He’s beginning with his own favorites – an India Pale Ale called Category 3. “Regular pale ales are very traditional. India Pale Ales have a hopped up flavor and there are a lot of different hops out there. They make a beer taste like beer.”
With all the variety of hops out there, a lot of flavor profiles can come through. They’re the fastest growing segment of the beer market in South Florida, he said – so it’s a commercially viable brew, too.
His other offering is a Caramel Cream Ale, brewed for his wife. “Shen’s not a fan of IPAs, so I made this for her – it’s really smooth.”
He’s set up to do 7000 gallons of beer a month in his 15,000-square-foot facility, but expects that within the next six to nine months, he’ll double that production. “I asked all the other small brewers what they would do differently, and almost every one of them said, ‘Buy a bigger space.’ So I started bigger – we have room to grow.”
A Florida brewery
He’s planning on staying just in Florida with distribution, too, for a while. “For now, we’re a Florida brewery. We’re trying to make enough for all that are in Florida who want our beer and can get our beer – we’ll cover those bases first. We’re pretty loyal to Florida right now.”
There will always be those who stick to the big mass produced beers that produce millions of barrels a year. There’s no contest, Halker said. “People like what they like. I would not ever say anything about those brewers. To do what they do in that quantity, and be so consistent – there’s absolutely something to be learned from those folks.”
To taste Due South ales, visit the brewery and take a tour. There’s a tasting room to sample all the beers, and fresh beer is sold in a growler – a specially sealed bottled – to take home.
Due South Brewing Co.
- 2900 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach
- 561-463-2337; duesouthales.com
- Open noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Closed Monday